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November 18, 2018

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Operation Ezra welcomes more Yazidi newcomers

Federal government announces $28M plan to resettle 1,200 Yazidis

Operation Ezra welcomed Dawood Murad-Qary (centre), his wife and seven children to Winnipeg on Feb. 22. The Yazidi family was living in a refugee camp in Turkey after fleeing from ISIL and the ongoing genocide being committed against Yazidis.

DANIELLE DA SILVA - SOU'WESTER

Operation Ezra welcomed Dawood Murad-Qary (centre), his wife and seven children to Winnipeg on Feb. 22. The Yazidi family was living in a refugee camp in Turkey after fleeing from ISIL and the ongoing genocide being committed against Yazidis.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/2/2017 (632 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The local refugee sponsorship initiative Operation Ezra welcomed 11 more Yazidi people to Winnipeg on Feb. 22 along with news that the federal government will bring 1,200 primarily Yazidi refugees to the country by year’s end.

Dawod Murad-Qary, his wife, and seven children were greeted by dozens of settled Yazidi refugees and members of Operation Ezra at the Richardson International Airport on a mild February afternoon.

Murad-Qary and his family had been staying in the Midyat refugee camp in Turkey for years after fleeing from their home in northern Iraq. The Yazidis, a religious ethnic minority living in the Mount Sinjar region, have been persecuted and slaughtered by ISIL. Yazidi women and girls have been held captive and trafficked by ISIL, thousands have been killed, and in June the Canadian government agreed with the United Nations that the actions committed against Yazidis constitute genocide.

“Our entire lives we’ve been living in hell,” Murad-Qary said in Kurdish through translator, fellow Yazidi, and South Pointe resident Nafiya Naso. “The last two years have been absolutely devastating and heartbeaking to watch my kids with no education, no food to eat, and no medical attention in the camps. It’s been very, very heartbreaking.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/2/2017 (632 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The local refugee sponsorship initiative Operation Ezra welcomed 11 more Yazidi people to Winnipeg on Feb. 22 along with news that the federal government will bring 1,200 primarily Yazidi refugees to the country by year’s end.

Dawod Murad-Qary, his wife, and seven children were greeted by dozens of settled Yazidi refugees and members of Operation Ezra at the Richardson International Airport on a mild February afternoon.

Murad-Qary and his family had been staying in the Midyat refugee camp in Turkey for years after fleeing from their home in northern Iraq. The Yazidis, a religious ethnic minority living in the Mount Sinjar region, have been persecuted and slaughtered by ISIL. Yazidi women and girls have been held captive and trafficked by ISIL, thousands have been killed, and in June the Canadian government agreed with the United Nations that the actions committed against Yazidis constitute genocide.

"Our entire lives we’ve been living in hell," Murad-Qary said in Kurdish through translator, fellow Yazidi, and South Pointe resident Nafiya Naso. "The last two years have been absolutely devastating and heartbeaking to watch my kids with no education, no food to eat, and no medical attention in the camps. It’s been very, very heartbreaking.

“A significant portion will be coming to Winnipeg, we think about 200, which will double the population of Yazidis in Winnipeg” — Michel Aziza, Operation Ezra volunteer

"We’re exhausted but at the same time we’re very excited that we’re here finally. It’s been a long journey," he said.

Federal government joins fight for Yazidis

On Feb. 21, the Canadian government announced a $28-million initiative to bring 1,200 Yazidis and survivors of ISIL, or Daesh, to Canada in 2017. The federal government is working with the United Nations Refugee Agency and with support of the Iraqi government, to identify vulnerable Yazidis both inside and outside of Iraq, officials said. The announcement follows a motion brought forward by the opposition in October vowing to bring Yazidi refugees to Canada within four months. The motion passed unanimously.

"We’re very excited and happy about the two families coming and we’re exponentially happier about the announcement that the government made yesterday," Operation Ezra volunteer organizer Michel Aziza said.

Operation Ezra is a Jewish-led coalition of multifaith organizations based in Winnipeg  that has led the charge in privately sponsoring Yazidi refugees. Since July, the coalition has raised thousands of dollars and brought about 35 people to Winnipeg.

Operation Ezra has been pushing the federal government to bring in Yazidi refugees since its inception. Aziza said 1,200 refugees is a good starting point and a number that agencies and communities will be able to handle.

Kids hold signs welcoming a new Yazidi family to Winnipeg on Feb. 22 at the Richardson International Airport.

DANIELLE DA SILVA - SOU'WESTER

Kids hold signs welcoming a new Yazidi family to Winnipeg on Feb. 22 at the Richardson International Airport.

"It’s what we’ve been striving for for the last two years," Aziza said. "We’ve been working on two fronts — the private sponsorship which takes a lot of work and a lot of time and we were always hoping that the government would take a lead and rescue a large number of refugees."

According to Aziza, there are about 450 Yazidi people living in Canada, so 1,200 more is a huge boost to the population. The federal government claims to have brought in 400 Yazidis and other survivors of ISIL to Canada since October.

"It’s a day to celebrate and we’re very, very happy with the number and the fact that Winnipeg will be welcoming a large number of the 1,200," Aziza said. "A significant portion will be coming to Winnipeg, we think about 200, which will double the population of Yazidis in Winnipeg."

Settlement program a well-oiled machine

Aziza said Operation Ezra has offered its assistance to the government to help with settlement and integration of new Yazidis but will also keep its focus on supporting the families the coalition has brought in so far.

Organizers have launched an English language program for the new arrivals and are helping them through school and the job market. They are also preparing paperwork to sponsor three more families at the cost of about $80,000.

Naso, who came to Canada as a refugee over a decade ago, said the new arrivals are enjoying life in Canada.

"Everyone is doing really well and all the kids are in school, parents are in school, and for the first family that arrived, the oldest son is working full-time during the day and he’s going to school in the evening," she explained. "We’re looking for jobs for three of the other boys in the family and after we do that we’ll be working with the other families."

Naso said the kids are picking up English quickly and are helping their parents adjust as they learn the language as well. Spirits are high among the refugees, Naso said, despite the circumstances that led to their arrival in Canada. The welcome and support the families have received in Winnipeg has been life changing.

"That’s a huge change from where they came from," Naso said.

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Twitter: @SouwesterWPG

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Community journalist — The Sou'wester

Danielle Da Silva is the community journalist for The Sou'wester. Email her at danielle.dasilva@canstarnews.com

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History

Updated on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 4:19 PM CST: Corrects typo.

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